Saratoga Horses in Focus for Friday, July 24

RACE 3: SPARKLING SKY (#3)

There are three main players in this spot, and the natural inclination is to gravitate towards the two with turf sprint form. Those are Peaceful and Voting Agreement. The former owns the best speed figures in this field, and should be right there at the end if she merely repeats her last race. However, this may be a slightly tougher spot and I didn’t think she had a major excuse to lose last time. Perhaps winner Cariba is simply a better horse, but Peaceful set a slow pace and just couldn’t quite kick away. It’s possible that I’m being overly dismissive of the most likely winner, but I wanted to look elsewhere. Voting Agreement also returned from a layoff last time with a solid effort. Yet she underperformed relative to her favorite’s status that day, as she never really posed a threat while just barely hanging on for third. I think she would need to improve to beat this field. Given that I’m not thrilled with either of these short prices, I want to give a shot to the third major player, who is turning back in distance. Sparkling Sky started out going two turns last year and was successful enough for them to stick with it. She won her second start in style and followed that up with a strong effort in the Grade 2 Miss Grillo. She didn’t fare as well at Aqueduct in November after losing some ground on the turns and she’s been off ever since. While returning in a sprint race may seem counterintuitive at first glance, she’s actually bred to excel over this distance. Her dam was best sprinting, and Sparkling Sky is a full-sister to Justa Lady, who was a turf sprint stakes winner at this distance. The switch to Horacio DePaz is a lateral move, and I think this filly will run well.

RACE 6: OVERJOYED (#3)

From a speed figure standpoint, Cap de Creus is a clear standout in this field. Almost all of her recent numbers are higher than those her competitors have achieved, and she’s primarily earned those figures against superior competition. The major issue with this filly is that she just doesn’t win. She’s been stuck at this N1X level for a while and has lost some close decisions along the way. That said, she was probably going to get the job done last time if she hadn’t gotten stymied in traffic in upper stretch. That effort was flattered when Civil Union returned to win the River Memories, and the added distance shouldn’t hinder her. It does feel like this may finally be the day for Cap de Creus, but it’s hard to swallow a very short price on a horse like this. I want to look elsewhere, and the best alternative that I can find is the 3-year-old filly Overjoyed. She broke her maiden on turf as a juvenile at Del Mar and subsequently tried some tougher fields in stakes after that. She returned from the layoff on dirt last time and put in a vastly improved performance. She was no match for winner Spice Is Nice, but that filly is graded stakes quality. Overjoyed earned a career-best 99 TimeformUS Speed Figure. She showed off a strong series of works coming into that return, so it’s very likely that she’s simply stepped forward with natural maturity. Now she’s getting back to what is arguably her best surface and she’s bred to run all day. Furthermore, Neil Drysdale is 7 for 12 (58%, $4.85 ROI) on the turf at NYRA over the past 5 years.

RACE 8: ZOOMER (#6)

I’m against potential favorite Free Enterprise in this spot. This horse’s reputation is built on a couple of fast victories last fall in New York, but both of those races look somewhat less imposing in retrospect, as the fields have proven to be weaker than initially thought. He returned from a layoff last time at Churchill and his performance was dreadful. He worked out a great trip and just had nothing to offer as the even-money favorite against inferior rivals. Of the shorter prices, I prefer Mount Travers and Strike That. The former earned a competitive speed figure in the mud last time, but he has run solid races over dry tracks before. It’s possible that he’s just a new horse as a 4-year-old. And Strike That will attract some support due to the fact that he was second to up-and-coming brilliant sprinter Volatile last time. He’s drawn well on the outside of the other speed, but has to avoid chasing the very fast Chateau on the front end. The Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, and I do think there’s a chance this race could come apart given the presence of those main speeds Chateau and Ready to Escape. Therefore I want to take a shot with the best closer, Zoomer. This horse ran one of his best races off the layoff back in June, as he was caught towards the back of the pack early was the only horse to make up significant ground in a race dominated on the front end. He moved up to this level last time, but was unfortunate to catch some stakes-quality rivals in Fortin Hill and Amundson. I also think the 7-furlong distance may have tested his stamina. Now he’s cutting back to his best trip and he’s going to get more pace to close into.

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